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11 Feb 2003 : Column 641W—continued

Flood Protection

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make it her policy to give local authorities a power to require riparian owners to take reasonable measures to ensure adequate levels of flood protection. [89630]

Margaret Beckett: The flood and coastal defence operating authorities work under permissive powers meaning that they are under no obligation to undertake such works. In default of action being taken by these authorities, riparian owners are therefore responsible for taking what action they consider necessary (subject in certain cases to the consent of the relevant operating authority) to protect their own properties. I am not, however, persuaded that obligations should be placed on riparian owners in these circumstances.

There are already powers for the operating authorities, including local authorities, to require riparian owners to take remedial action where the proper flow of water is impeded across their land.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what assessment she has made of the lessons for policy in England and Wales of the Scottish arrangement for local authorities to have a statutory duty for flood protection; [89631]

Margaret Beckett: I am aware that some advocate adoption of the Scottish approach for the provision of flood defence. However, flood risk issues in Scotland are different from those in England and Wales. We

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currently operate on the basis of permissive powers, which allows the Environment Agency and other operating authorities to take action where it is considered justifiable against a range of criteria. This allows taxpayers' money to be spent where it is most needed, an approach overwhelmingly supported by respondents to our recent consultation on the Flood and Coastal Defence Funding Review. I expect to announce conclusions on the review as soon as possible.


Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what measures her Department is looking at to tackle littering arising from the use of plastic and other non-biodegradable packaging. [86024]

Mr. Meacher: We have a number of initiatives under way at present, although none are specifically aimed at non-biodegradable packaging.

At the Urban Summit last October, My right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Rural Affairs (Alun Michael) launched a consultation document called "Living Places—Powers, Rights, Responsibilities". The document sets out 27 options which, if adopted, would make a significant impact on the quality of the local environment. The options include measures to deal with graffiti, fly posting, litter in the aquatic environment, fly tipping and a range of other issues. The consultation closes on 14 February. We will then carefully assess consultees comments and consider, with other Government Departments as necessary, how best to take matters forward.

Defra has provided the environmental charity EnCams with £1 million to develop a Pathfinder program. This involves 27 local authorities in a major programme to draw up good practice guidelines over a wide range of local environmental quality issues. The program is almost completed and preliminary assessments indicate that it has been a success at ground level. Local authorities have been able to use the program to test innovative techniques for improving service delivery and communicating with customers. From over 30 projects, a number have emerged that are worthy of consideration for further development, including the district level Local Environmental Quality Survey which is being developed by EnCams on behalf of Defra.

We have been in discussions with fast food operators and other key stakeholders about the problems associated with fast food waste. We are considering options and will come forward with proposals shortly.

We strongly support the development of biodegradable plastics made from non-fossil sources, providing these will actually be composted and not sent to landfill. A substitute for plastic made from potato starch is now being developed, which is being used for some types of packaging by some retailers. Such material is entirely biodegradable and can be composted. A number of companies are marketing degradable plastics technology and products manufactured from these materials.

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Ministerial Travel

Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many times since 2001 she has taken flights on departmental duties in the UK; how many of these were (a) charter flights, (b) first or club class and (c) by helicopter; and who accompanied her on each trip. [95386]

Margaret Beckett: Since June 2001, I have made three trips on departmental duties within the UK which have involved business class air travel. This included a return journey from London to Belfast, where I was accompanied by a private secretary and a press officer; a single journey from London to Newquay, where I was accompanied by my husband; and a single journey from London to Leeds, where I was accompanied by my husband, a private secretary, a special adviser and a press officer.

All travel is undertaken fully in accordance with the rules set out in the "Ministerial Code and Travel by Ministers", copies of which are available in the Libraries of the House,

National Parks and Marine Nature Reserves

John McDonnell: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what progress the Government has made since 1997 in the creation of new national parks and marine nature reserves. [97133]

Alun Michael: The Countryside Agency submitted a Designation Order to the Secretary of State for a New Forest National Park in February 2002. A public inquiry into it started last October and is due to end in April. A Designation Order for a South Downs National Park was submitted in February 2003 and is currently subject to public consultation. If there are, as expected, objections to the Order by any of the local authorities, a public inquiry will be held.

No new Marine Nature Reserves have been created since 1997 but the Government are committed to a range of initiatives aimed at protecting the marine environment as outlined in the first Marine Stewardship Report—"Safeguarding Our Seas: A Strategy for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of our Marine Environment". This includes continuing to protect important marine species and habitats under the Habitats and Birds Directives, including extending the protection afforded by these Directives to offshore areas. We are also looking at ways to improve marine nature conservation through our Review of Marine Nature Conservation.

Nuclear Accident

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what her Department's role is in the event of a nuclear accident. [93274]

Mr. Meacher: Defra has Lead Department responsibilities for co-ordinating the Government's response to a nuclear accident overseas. This will include issuing appropriate warning messages to official bodies and the public and co-ordinating decision-making on any actions necessary to safeguard public health and other necessary interests. In the event

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of accidents at UK civil nuclear sites, military sites or weapons accidents, accidents involving radioactive materials in transit, or accidents arising from a nuclear powered satellite falling to earth, the nominated Lead Department would be the Department of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Defence, Department for Transport and Home Office respectively. In these accident scenarios, Defra would act in a supporting capacity to the nominated Lead Department.

Detailed explanations as to the roles of Government Departments and Agencies in the event of a nuclear accident are set out in the Home Office booklet "Dealing with Disaster" and the HSE booklet "Arrangements for Responding to Nuclear Accidents". Both are HMSO publications and copies are held in the Library.

Radioactive Waste

Norman Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what she estimates the volume in cubic metres will be of (a) high level, (b) intermediate level and (c) low level stocks of radioactive waste in (i) 2010, (ii) 2020 and (iii) 2030, assuming projected closure of nuclear power stations occurs. [94971]

Mr. Meacher: Data contained in the 2001 UK Radioactive Waste Inventory, published jointly by my Department and Nirex, indicates that the stocks of high and intermediate level radioactive waste, expressed in cubic metres when in conditioned form, will be:

(a) HLW (b) ILW

The volumes of low level waste (LLW) are less certain since LLW has a disposal route and the quantities in stock fluctuate markedly depending on the timing of transfers to Drigg. 15,000 cubic metres was the stock volume of LLW reported in the inventory for 1 April 2001.

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether British Nuclear Fuels has provided her Department with a timetable of dates on which radioactive waste arising from the reprocessing of foreign spent nuclear fuel will be returned to country of origin. [95266]

Mr. Meacher: British Nuclear Fuels plc has not provided such a timetable to DEFRA.

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